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WHS for Small Business


Did you know: As an employer, you can be prosecuted for failing to ensure a safe workplace even when no accident or injury occurs.

The prosecution does not have to prove that anyone was actually injured, only that an injury or incident could have occurred. So it is not enough that the plant, substance or structure for example, is safe in its current capacity - the employer must consider any future foreseeable use and take reasonable steps to ensure that such use is safe.

Primary duty of care
In Australia, employers have a primary duty of care under health and safety legislation to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that workers are not exposed to risks of work-related harm.

This duty requires you to eliminate (or at least minimise) risks to health and safety when reasonably practicable.

Other Duties
Other duties employers must ensure are met include:
  • not recklessly engage in conduct that puts a person in danger of serious injury or death.
  • having a safety management system in place
  • notifying the relevant safety regulator of accidents and incidents in the workplace;
  • keeping appropriate health and safety records;
  • consulting with workers on health and safety issues and, in some circumstances, appointing a health and safety representative (HSR) and a health and safety committee; and
  • cooperating with inspectors from the health and safety regulator.
Penalties for breaching your duties
You can be penalised if you are found to have:
  • breached your primary duty of care; or
  • engaged in reckless conduct.
The maximum penalties that apply for a breach of your primary duty is shown in the following table:



Work Health and Safety Act A fine of up to $1,500,000.

The maximum penalties that apply for reckless endangerment is shown in the following table:



Work Health and Safety Act

A fine of up to $3 million.


You need to develop and implement an effective safety management system. On the face of it, that sounds arduous and costly, however the safety management system that is right for your business will depend on the size and nature of your business. So for many SME's it doesn't need to be overly arduous and costly.

The 7 steps involved in implementing an effective safety management system are:

Step 1: Put a safety plan in place

Step 2: Set up a system for consultation with your workers

Step 3: Develop hazard identification and risk management processes

Step 4: Have written policies and procedures

Step 5: Provide all workers with proper training and induction

Step 6: Supervise your workers

Step 7: Monitor your workplace for safety compliance

Check out our BLOG (top right corner) for more practical tips on how to ensure you're compliant with current WHS ACT legislation